Cypriot Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides has reiterated his country’s position in seeking a settlement of the Cyprus problem, adding that economic sanctions against Ankara remain on the table “as long as Turkey continues to maintain tensions.”
Speaking on Tuesday at the Economist Cyprus Virtual Summit, Petrides said Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the north were asking for a two-state solution, adding such an option was “in full contradiction with the agreed basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation” and also against all UN Security Council resolutions, the international law and the EU law, principles and values.
Turkey and Turkish Cypriots argue that a federal model has been on the table for many decades, saying Greek Cypriots have rejected it and it was no longer a realistic option for the divided island.
Petrides also criticized Turkey for escalating tensions with Cyprus and Greece at a time when the Republic of Cyprus has been promoting cooperation and stability with other countries in the region.
'Economic sanctions are not the way forward, but it they are maintaining tensions like in Varosha, then they should be on the table'
"Cyprus has no option but to continue to cooperate with all those that embrace common European principles and values and of course international law," Petrides said.
Turkey argues a number of bilateral and trilateral agreements between the Republic of Cyprus and other nations in the region aim at leaving Ankara out of the energy map in the eastern Mediterranean.
But Petrides reiterated his call on Turkey “to accept Cyprus’ invitation and engage in serious negotiations for the Cyprus problem, in good faith, and always in accordance with the international law and with the objective of an agreement both for the maritime delimitation and of course the whole situation of Cyprus.”
“Of course there is the right to the International Court of Justice, if Turkey prefers it," the Cypriot minister added.
Turkey has been under heavy criticism following a series of steps in Varosha, a popular ghost town on the divided island of Cyprus, aimed at gradually re-opening the abandoned town and inviting Greek Cypriot property owners back under Turkish Cypriot administration.
But Ankara has also been singled out by Athens, with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accusing Turkey this week of dodging dialogue efforts.
Speaking after a new Turkish NAVTEX was issued for exploration in the Mediterranean, these actions “scupper any prospect of dialogue with our country and, unfortunately, leave no room for any positive agenda at the upcoming European Council,” Dendias said.
“Greece of course has always remained faithful to the idea of honest dialogue,” the Greek minister added.
Turkey slams Greece over recent statements
But Ankara says Greece is unwilling to engage in dialogue, with Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy saying Dendias’ comments were as sign of “Athens’ unwillingness to engage in dialogue with Ankara over bilateral disputes.”
“The accusations and the threatening tone of the Greek Foreign Minister towards Turkey in his statements today are yet further indications of the unwillingness of the Greek side towards the settlement of bilateral issues through dialogue and diplomacy,” Aksoy said in a statement.
The Turkish official argued that Athens failed to reciprocate after a series of steps taken by Ankara over the summer, reiterating Turkey’s position that Greece maintains “maximalist demands.”
Athens and Ankara continue to take jabs at each other as the European Union prepares to hold a Turkey summit in the second week of December, with EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell already seeing “no positive signals” that could create a more cooperative climate.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also threw the ball in Ankara’s court, saying “it is up to Turkey what decision will be taken at the EU summit in December.”
Nicosia ups rhetoric
Nicosia has also upped its rhetoric against Turkey recently, making clear that it considered “illegal” both natural gas exploration in already claimed parts of the eastern Mediterranean as well as the recent moves on Varosha.
Responding to a question about the discussion for sanctions against Turkey, Petrides said "economic sanctions are not the way forward, but it they are maintaining tensions like in Varosha, then they should be on the table.”
“That’s not the main task. The main task and issue is to return to the table and find a solution based on international law and the UN Security Council resolutions," the Cypriot defence minister said.
Ankara insists that Turkey is open to dialogue on a host of regional issues, with Aksoy saying “Greece should by now comprehend that a language of threats and trying to secure EU backing will not yield any results.”
“Greece should refrain from putting forward preconditions and come to the negotiation table at once,” the Turkish spokesman said.
A summit in Brussels where EU leaders will assess the situation in the eastern Mediterranean as well as Turkey’s actions, is scheduled to kae place on December 10 and 11.